Tag Archives: basil

Cheese Curd. Everywhere.

The cheesemaking process is something that has always fascinated me, despite my aversion to hot milk. As I would stroll through Pike’s Market in Seattle, my destination was usually the fishbowl that is Beecher’s cheesemaking room, to marvel at the SHOVELS full of curd that 2 men in oompa loompa suits were pushing around in a giant stainless vat. It wasn’t something I ever saw myself trying though, since the joke on the gal from the dairy farm is that she’s lactose intolerant…


A mad scientist friend of mine suggested we try making fresh mozzarella this weekend and I jumped at the chance. I had no idea where to start, and was given a simple list for shopping. Buy a gallon of pasteurized whole milk and lots of tomatoes. Yup. Tomatoes.

You can probably guess that there’s more to making cheese than milk. And that tomatoes probably don’t have much to do with making cheese. And you’d be right. The mad scientist showed up with citric acid and rennet, 2 ingredients instrumental to creating cheese curd. He also makes a mean tomato sauce.

Mozzarella Cheese Curd

Mozzarella Cheese Curd

After a bottle of homemade Elderberry wine was uncorked, poured, and partially consumed, we set to making cheese. We probably should have waited to open the wine, as our first batch of curd, well, didn’t really “curd” the way we needed it, because we were too busy being silly, and not busy enough watching the thermometer. In fairness to the scientist,  I should note that as we were reading the directions online, the guy switched from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and this critical after-the-fact find isn’t helpful if you have a sensitive concoction on the stove. So I won’t blame the mad scientist for either mishap. I enjoyed the wine and we didn’t let the first batch of curd go to waste.

The mad scientist went to work quickly on our mishap, straining and draining and squeezing and kneading, and the result was a boursin-like cheese that with a little roasted garlic butter (which we had made a few days earlier to put on our flat irons) and some basic herbs, became a delectable spread that tastes amazing on just about anything.

Solid Mozzarella Cheese Curd

Solid Mozzarella Cheese Curd

So, did we actually make mozzarella? Yes! After another trip to the store for more milk, and another glass of wine (or 2), we went through the whole process again, and the curd formed a nice solid chunk that we were able to cut with a knife. We then proceeded to go through the strain, reheat, strain, reheat, knead process and the result was cheese curds everywhere and an incredible full-size ball of fresh mozzarella.

Mozzarella Success!

Mozzarella Success!

And it TASTED like mozzarella. It actually sliced much cleaner than what you would buy in the store, and because it had not been sitting in a brine for weeks, our palettes were expecting it to be  little more salty, and so we decided that next time, we would add just a touch more.

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza

What we ultimately created was a wonderful afternoon full of good food, wine, laughs and lots of dishes. The mozzarella landed on grilled pizza where the sauce, caramelized onions and the dough were also made from scratch, as well as a few fresh sliced tomatoes with basil and vinegar. We hatched a plan for more cheesemaking in our future, that included buying a few goats (ok – maybe that was the wine talking), and we’ll share that whole experience with you too! For now, see a quick list below of what you’ll need for making your own mozzarella, as well as a link to the instructions we followed.


  1. Large stainless or enamel stockpot
  2. Large mesh strainer
  3. Candy-making thermometer
  4. Stainless measuring cups & spoons
  5. Microwave safe bowl


  1. 1 gallon of Pasteurized milk (NOT Ultra Pasteurized)
  2. Sea salt
  3. Unchlorinated water (we used Pelligrino)
  4. Citric acid
  5. MALAKA BRAND Liquid Vegetarian Rennet, 0.5 Ounce Bottle (Pack of 2)

Kneading the Cheese Curd

Kneading the Cheese Curd


  • It is extremely important to watch the heat and the time. Don’t let the milk get above 90ºF.
  • Have lots of towels around as making cheese curd is messy business.
  • It really helps to have 2 people. The straining process is a lot of back and forth, and it really helped to have one person holding the big pot, while the other holds the strainer and kneads.
  • We used this website as our basis for the recipe/process. I suggest you read it through carefully from start to finish because timing and heat is crucial to success.

Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

Pizza Suggestions:
For our grilled pizza, we made 2 batches of  basic white pizza dough ala Cuisinart, and then topped the first with the mad scientists amazing homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil, and dried Italian salami. The other pizza was half BBQ sauce, my homemade caramelized onions, blue cheese, and the other half more red sauce, mozzarella,

Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

Greek olives, basil and salami. We heated the pizza stone on the grill, but would suggest pre-cooking the crust for about 5 minutes before adding the toppings and putting it back on the grill. Watch the bottom! It will burn fast if the heat is too high. Add a couple of cold beers, and a great view and you have yourself a really nice afternoon.

Happy Cheese Curding!
~ Gal Foodie

And the Winner Is…

Wow you guys can cook!
I received recipe submission’s for last month’s “Comfort Food” recipe contest from all over the world! I really enjoyed the variety of dishes that inspired comfort in all of you, from Diet Coke cake, cheese balls, tuna casseroles (a myriad of combination’s) to chocolate frosting (eaten right out of the bowl!).

What I really enjoyed were the stories that accompanied the recipes. Food is such a memory-jerker. It was clear a lot of you hold very fond memories surrounding the recipes you submitted. Here’s an excerpt from one:

Grandma Gladys Christmas Ball
For about 45 years, my family and I spent Christmas Eve with a neighbor who became our family’s grandmother by proxy. She made this appetizer every year. We never found the exact ingredient amounts written down, she told us the ingredients a few times. Since she passed away in 2001, we have made this same ball and served it every Christmas. Grandma Gladys and Grandpa Harry had no children of their own, we were their only family. My memories began in the early 60’s, the cocktail era. Grandma always had a “toddy” in her hands on Christmas Eve, usually Southern Comfort and Cranberry Juice. The 80’s became my children’s memories, but Grandma and Grandpa were still stuck in the 60’s with their decorating tastes, cocktails and bouffant hair. Imagine sitting at their retro bar, paneling on the walls, red fur pillows on fake leopard print couch and a blazing white rock fireplace. Fabulous.

After reading through all the recipes, trying our favorites, and eating lots of leftovers, Ben and I have chosen the winner. We based our decision on a few key factors. One, we loved the recipe. It was easy, delicious, a pantry cleaner-outer,  and very comforting, especially with the current weather we are having in Maine. Second, we also agreed with the author – it can fix a bad day. Especially with extra cheese.

So congratulations, Lisa Speer! You are our Gal Foodie Favorite pick for February’s Comfort Food Recipe Contest! Hold the cheese!

The Winning Recipe…

Had a Bad Day Meaty Noodles by Lisa Speer
1/2 Pound Ground Beef (80/20 fat ratio)
1/2 Pound Ground Pork
1/4 Teaspoon Oregano
2 1/4 Teaspoons Fine Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Back Pepper
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Tablesoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Can Whole Plum Tomatoes, Preferably San Marzano
1/4 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Large Sweet Onion, chopped
2 Bay Leaves
1/4 Cup Light Cream
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
4 Large Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
Hot Prepared Egg Noodles
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Chopped Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

After really bad day, heat butter and olive oil in in large saute pan over medium heat until butter is melted.  Raise heat to medium high. Add meat, salt, pepper and oregano. Brown meat, add onion, garlic and celery and cook until onion is almost translucent. Add wine, tomatoes and bay leaves. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add cream and Parmesan and simmer an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve over egg noodles topped with plenty of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with parsley. If carb-a-phobic, omit noodles. AAaaaaahhhh!!!!

The Story
“This recipe is pure comfort food to me. I vary the ingredients with whatever types of canned tomatoes and pasta that I have around, usually whatever has been on sale in the previous weeks. When I’m feeling on the heavy side I omit the pasta and pretend the cream and cheese are my friends. It is guaranteed to make me feel better when I need comfort food, every time. If this recipe doesn’t win the Silver Palate Cookbook that I’ve wanted for twenty years (I don’t have the original either), I will have some. With pasta. And extra cheese.

Thank you to everyone who entered, and watch for the March Recipe Contest: Recipes for Celebrations

It’s Freezing in Here… Warm & Fast Creamy Tomato Soup to the rescue!

Cold days take me back to my Grammie’s kitchen. It was warm there, and always came equipped with plenty of hot chocolate, sugar cookies, and cans of Campbell’s soup. Grammie’s kitchen doesn’t exist anymore, and now that I’m an adult and can read labels, I’ll admit my aversion to canned soup (do you know how much SALT is in there?). But it’s OK, because even though today it’s sub-zero outside, my kitchen can feel like Gram’s, too.

I started perusing my cabinets in search of good ingredients for a hearty and super fast soup. Things in the graphic design business are picking up and I don’t have a whole lot of time lately to cook (or clean – sorry, Ben), let alone blog about it. I made my favorite Lentil Stew on Tuesday and it was all gone by Wednesday lunch. I came across a few candidates for a creamy tomato soup. In less than 10 minutes this soup went from blender to pan to bowl. Perfect for lunch or dinner for the whole family.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup
Makes 4-6 Servings
1 12 ounce can Crushed Tomatoes (I used Progresso)
1 14.5 ounce can Chicken Stock
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup of heavy cream or milk
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic (more if you love garlic!)
6 leaves fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dried)

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender on “puree” setting just enough to combine. I like chunky soup, but if you prefer smooth and creamy, puree until all the crushed tomatoes and onions are pureed.

2. Pour contents of blender into a sauce pan over medium and heat through, stirring occasionally.

3. Eat 2 bowls while you are blogging about it. Eh hem, Serve.

Variations of a Theme:
I considered adding roasted red peppers or cilantro. Maybe artichoke hearts? Roasted garlic? If you try it, let me know.

I suggest also making yourself a few grilled cheese sandwiches for dipping.

Stay Warm!